I've been running into a few of these lately in /review. The latest was installing shoutpy boost python on windows. This isn't a programming question, it's a software installation issue that's blocking someone from coding. Are "How do I install [this]" questions best placed on SO or one of the other Stack Exchange sites?

I didn't find a clear answer in the FAQ, nor in the Meta discussions, and didn't want to down-vote/flag this without a clearer answer.


In general, yes, provided they are

  • truly specific to programmers and programming tools that only programmers would reasonably use

  • clear, coherent, and specific in what they are asking

  • provide enough information to be reasonably answered

  • 3
    Shouldn't this type of question be referred to the support site for [this]? – vascowhite Apr 24 '12 at 19:58
  • @vasco, you assume that [this] has a support site (and that it's of any use) =) – Rob Apr 24 '12 at 20:29
  • @Rob Yes I am, but a quick search should find it if it exists (lmgtfy :0) ). Obviously we probably aren't in a position to judge its usefulness if it does, but is SO here to replace product support sites that either don't exist or are crap? – vascowhite Apr 24 '12 at 20:38
  • @vasco only if they have a tonka truck full of money – Some Helpful Commenter Apr 24 '12 at 20:54
  • @SomeHelpfulCommenter A good example of replacing crap support. I'm not sure that worked did it? – vascowhite Apr 24 '12 at 20:59
  • With that logic, every question with a .net, c#, vb.net tag, or heck even a windows tag, should have been asked on Microsoft's MSDN forums instead of here. That kind of misses the point, doesn't it? @vas – Cody Gray Apr 24 '12 at 22:03
  • @the I was referring specifically to installation questions, not 'every' question, so, yes, I would say that logic is correct. – vascowhite Apr 25 '12 at 4:55
  • @vas: Sure, okay. I still don't understand what is it about software installation questions that justifies treating them so differently from other questions about tools from a particular vendor. – Cody Gray Apr 25 '12 at 5:57
  • 1
    @the well, I'd say programming tools are much more difficult to set up and install than your average software, too, so more help is often necessary. – Jeff Atwood Apr 25 '12 at 7:16

No, in general, questions about installing computer software do not belong on Stack Overflow. They would be better asked on a different site, like Super User.

Of course, the usual rules regarding migration apply: don't migrate crap. So if the question is just a bad question that can't reasonably be answered or is not likely to be useful to anyone else in the future, don't migrate it. Just close it as "off topic" without selecting a destination.

However, the FAQ does say that questions about "software tools commonly used by programmers" are on topic for Stack Overflow.

This allows you to ask questions about installing/configuring software that is used uniquely (or at least primarily) by programmers. Examples include IDEs like Visual Studio and Xcode, utilities like WebKit's Developer Tools and .NET Reflector, and so on.

These questions make sense for Stack Overflow because they're still related to programming, and they're likely to get a better answer from a community consisting of fellow users of that software than they are from general computer experts.

That's not to suggest that these types of questions would be off topic for Super User, but that's not a sufficient reason to migrate them away.


It depends.

If it's a tool commonly used by programmers then it's on topic for Stack Overflow. There's even a line in the FAQ's What kind of questions can I ask here? section:

software tools commonly used by programmers

All other installation questions should probably be directed at Super User.

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